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Zuma: South Africans must know, understand the Constitution

Some people questioned what President Jacob Zuma would say at the Constitution celebrations given the ConCourt ruling on Nkandla.

FILE: President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS.

SHARPEVILLE - President Jacob Zuma has called on South Africans to know the Constitution and understand it.

Zuma was speaking at the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Constitution in Sharpeville on Saturday.

The President was joined by his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, with both statesmen signing a pledge.

Just before President Zuma arrived, some people expressed excitement that he would be the one addressing the celebrations while others questioned what he would say given that the Constitutional Court found that he failed to uphold, respect and defend the Constitution when he disregarded the Public Protector’s remedial actions on Nkandla.

Zuma told the gathering about the importance of the document.

“The constitution defines the structure of government [and] it outlines the division of South Africa into nine provinces.”

He spent time reflecting on the progress government has made in delivering basic services in the past 20 years.

ZUMA FAILED TO UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION

In March, the Constitutional Court found that President Zuma failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

He was then ordered to pay back a portion of the money used for upgrades at his Nkandla home, which he later took out a loan from a Limpopo bank for.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said remedial action was binding and Zuma's compliance was not optional.

"No binding and constitutionally or statutory liaisons decision may be disregarded 'willy-nilly'."

He said Zuma was entitled to inquire into the correctness of those aspects of the report he disagreed with.

"All the president was required to do was to comply, even if he had reason to doubt its correctness."

Mogoeng said the Public Protector's office must be independent.

"It is supposed to protect the public from any conduct in state affairs or in any sphere of government that could result in any impropriety or prejudice.

The Public Protector is thus one of the most invaluable Constitutional gifts to our nation in the fight against corruption."

He said the ruling dealt with issues of great importance to South Africans and the well-being of the country's Constitutional democracy.

Judges took just over a month to weigh up arguments from the EFF, the Democratic Alliance (DA), the National Assembly speaker and the then Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

Zuma had previously refused to pay back the money saying Madonsela's orders, which she made in her report entitled 'Secure in Comfort' two years ago, were merely recommendations.

The president spent R246 million on non-security features at his Nkandla home in KwaZulu-Natal.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)

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